While some people waited to return to work as the economy gradually reopened, this was not the case for many young people who permanently lost their jobs.
Kat Kaminska, 23, was a full-time worker in the retail sector before the pandemic hit and she, among other colleagues, was let go.
“I really enjoyed it, it was probably my favourite job that I’ve ever had,” she says. “I enjoyed the interaction with people the most. Hundreds of people were fired across the board once Covid hit, I was one among my few co-workers in my particular place of employment.
“It wasn’t just those that were fired that were distraught, but those that were kept on as staff were also disgruntled at the situation.
“Many of us were close friends, enjoyed working together, and seeing each other every day. Having to part ways through no fault of our own was extremely upsetting.” The impact being fired had on Kat’s mental health was “dreadful” and she now feels anxious about seeking new employment.
“It would be an understatement that this situation put me in a bad mood,” she says.
"Not only am I increasingly hopeless, and unmotivated, I have also grown anxious to apply for positions in fear of getting fired once again if a new variant puts the country into yet another lockdown.
Kat has considered freelance work, but she says it is also not a reliable and sustainable source of income.
“I’ve considered freelance ghost-writing and digital art commissions, yet there is little income to be made from that business due to oversaturation of young people just like me.
“I’ve planned to look into different career paths, specifically sectors that are always looking for new hires. I have no interest in these areas however, sadly in our times I don’t think that interest and passion counts for anything anymore,.
“In our current economy, interest and passion won’t put food on the table or pay our rent.” During her job search, Kat has noticed it is nearly impossible for young people to apply for jobs as many of them require years of experience.
“New graduates, or those who didn’t complete third-level will most likely be overlooked due to lack of experience or qualifications,” she says.
“It’s important for us to realise that places of work are where one would obtain this experience that so many employers require.
“If employers seek three or more years of experience from young people, how then are these young people supposed to get said experience?
“I don’t think there are any supports to help young people find employment.
“This is not encouraging to anybody, alas like I said, PUP or no PUP it wouldn’t make a difference. Jobs are extremely hard to come by for young people without experience.”
Karl Rowsome, 21, did not return to his part-time bar job in Wexford as he decided to pursue a master’s in Cork, and despite attempts to get a job, he remains unemployed.
“I was working in a bar up until about a month ago when we reopened under current restrictions, the work atmosphere had changed completely,” he says.
“Normally, work was a sociable place where we could chat to the regulars, but once the barstools were taken away from the bar, that was it, really.
“Even socialising with co-workers was limited.
“Not having that interaction with customers ruined the whole experience.”
He said elderly regulars who typically frequented the bar at a golf resort in Wexford, were “either too afraid to come in” or decided not to because they felt that they couldn’t properly socialise and meet with their friends.
Karl says he “strongly believes” young people have received the brunt of abuse and socialising shame, when in fact he thinks this is an unfair light to cast on them, particularly students.
“A lot of people my age got painted with the brush that we were all socialising in large groups, but if you look at the pubs now, I find there are a lot of older people going out in their masses, and aren’t getting half the coverage we got,” he says.
“From my experience of working in the bar, young people were extremely good for following [public health] guidelines.”
Moving to Cork came as a relief to Karl, who said he “couldn’t stay home all summer and do nothing”, or he’d “lose the plot”.
However, he continues to find work a struggle.
“When I came down here, I was put off bar work by the entire ambiguity and not knowing when indoor dining would return,” he says.
“It has damaged a lot of people — both bars and young people searching for work. Young people are facing temporary lay-offs, places either have enough staff or don’t need staff.
“The way the Government has gone about it in terms of giving people a solid plan of reopening, it’s like they don’t even know what the plan is for the future themselves.
“The current way things are going, it’s going to be very difficult for young people to receive employment and feel like they have job stability again.”